These Special Collections form a vibrant portrait of the literary, religious, political, military, musical, and cultural life of America from the time of the Library’s founding in 1889 through the present. The collection also includes the oldest book in a Fairfield County public library, the Sancti Gregorii magni epistolae (the Letter of Pope Gregory I, c. 540-604); the four Shakespeare Folios—two intact plays from the First (1623), and complete Second (1632), Third (1666) and Fourth (1685); and a growing number of first printings, such as Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead (1943) and Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men (1960).
Pequot Library received a restricted grant from The Dillon Fund in December 2016 to reimagine existing spaces for rare books to be on view to the public every day of the year. Projects are proceeding throughout the 19th century building, from top to bottom and construction is expected to be completed this winter. The Library will remain open as usual, unless other announcements have been made. The Dillon Reading Room, a space for students and scholars to utilize Pequot’s collections, is being constructed in a portion of the Mezzanine and the historic glass tile floor is being repaired. On the lower level of the Library, a humidity- and temperature-controlled on-site storage room is being built for a selection of rare books, manuscripts, and archives retrieved from off-site storage. In addition to the building renovations, an online catalog of Pequot Library’s Special Collections is being developed for students, researchers, and scholars.
“As a result of this generous restricted grant award to care for the Special Collections, Pequot Library is able to make these important primary source materials accessible and visible to all. We are tremendously grateful to the longtime Library patrons who recognized the need to expand preservation efforts and worked so hard to make this pivotal moment in Pequot’s recent history a reality.” says Coakley.
Pequot Library, founded in 1889 and opened in 1894, is a unique public association library due in large part to its Special Collections—rare books, manuscripts, and archives—assembled initially by Virginia Marquand Monroe (1837-1926) and her family and local associates. It was Virginia’s husband, Elbert Monroe, on the advice of Reverend William Holman (1852-1936), who decided that the initial major collection efforts should focus on Early Americana. Mary Catherine Hull Wakeman (1813-1909) followed that collecting advisement and guidance as well. In addition to donating funds to build the ornate steel stacks currently displaying Pequot’s circulating collection and commissioning the Tiffany stained-glass triptych, Mrs. Wakeman made significant book purchases that continue to distinguish Pequot’s Special Collections today. The remarkable holdings only found at Pequot Library are growing each year with more donated fine books and materials. They are both regional in scope and internationally significant and offer patrons and scholars educational treasures for reading and research. While this capital project does not include relocating the nearly 2,000 items on long-term deposit at Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, it does assure Pequot patrons continued access to the collection at Yale.
Visit www.pequotlibrary.org to learn more about this vibrant library, educational, arts and cultural institution. For information: (203) 259-0346 ext. 115. Follow Pequot Library on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Pequot Library Brings Culture to Life!
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